NHS Ayrshire and Arran is currently at 96 per cent of its COVID capacity, Nicola Sturgeon has revealed.

Addressing MSPs yesterday to announce a national lockdown, the First Minister highlighted that health boards were already feeling the pressure of the rapidly increasing number of coronavirus cases.

She said: “The next update on the numbers of COVID patients in hospital and intensive care will be published tomorrow (January 5).

“I would expect these to show that, nationally, the total number of COVID patients in hospital is now close to its April peak. And in some boards, the pressure is already very real.

“For example, in terms of hospital beds, NHS Ayrshire and Arran is currently at 96 per cent of its COVID capacity, and three other health boards - Borders, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Lanarkshire are above 60 per cent of their capacity.”

Responding to the news, NHS Ayrshire and Arran admitted that their COVID capacity is “currently stretched” and said this was a result of several factors including staff absence. 

Dr Crawford McGuffie, medical director for the health board, said: “NHS Ayrshire and Arran has prepared extensively to deal with COVID-19 and continues to work to ensure we have the right resources, equipment and staffing in place.

“We have experienced an increase in COVID-19 admissions and, in line with other health boards across Scotland, have increased our capacity to support rising demand.

“This expanded COVID capacity is currently stretched, due to a combination of symptomatic patients who are either COVID-19 positive or awaiting swab results; necessary infection prevention and control measures; and staff absence.

“The situation is constantly monitored and the Board links closely with Health Protection Scotland, the Scottish Government and the Chief Medical Officer.

“We would like to remind people of the symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19): new persistent cough; high temperature; and / or loss of taste and smell. Anyone who develops any of these symptoms should book a test and self-isolate immediately.”